Two years in the past, I attended the 2019 Audubon Conference in Milwaukee, and in a narrative about it, I wrote:
“Along with its work for hen conservation, Audubon over the past a number of years has embraced a piece ethic that makes all individuals really feel welcome. It’s referred to briefly as EDI — fairness, variety, and inclusion. The ethic was included into the conference’s theme — ‘Audubon for Everybody’ — and got here up in additional than one of many workshops I attended.”
Now, that article and the message despatched in the course of the conference appears like happy-talk and window dressing. In the event you haven’t been following information concerning the Nationwide Audubon Society these days, the group has been embroiled in controversy for the higher a part of a yr over its therapy of staff, particularly staff of colour, ladies, and the LGBTQ neighborhood.
Within the early months of the pandemic, Audubon laid off greater than 100 staffers in April and June 2020; the primary spherical of layoffs was introduced on Earth Day. As well as, the price of workers’ healthcare elevated in the course of the pandemic. A Politico report final November revealed an inside survey of workers that confirmed deep dissatisfaction amongst workers.
Allegations of a poisonous work setting have been confirmed in an audit by regulation agency Morgan Lewis. It discovered that Audubon “has a tradition of retaliation, concern, and antagonism towards ladies and folks of colour.” The audit additionally really helpful higher employees participation within the decision-making course of and extra honest efforts to advertise variety, fairness, and inclusion.
A push for a union
In April and Might of this yr, former CEO David Yarnold and different senior managers left Audubon, and workers have been pushing for a union with the Communications Staff of America. The union is named Audubon for All.
And whereas unions could also be extra related to manufacturing firms and different organizations with massive blue-collar workforces, they’re not exceptional at massive nonprofits. Environmental nonprofits Sierra Membership, Greenpeace, Dawn Motion, and 350.org all have unions which might be acknowledged by administration. And simply in the previous couple of weeks, staff on the Middle for Organic Variety have began organizing a union, and its CEO agreed to a card test, highlighting the rising pattern of union organizing amongst nonprofits.
The Audubon for All organizing course of started earlier this yr, and an article in Vitality & Surroundings Information in mid-March famous that staffers say “they’re assembly sharp resistance from the group’s administration, which has employed one of many nation’s most well-known union-busting companies.” Audubon administration denied that the agency, Littler Mendelson PC, was employed to interrupt up the union, however E&E Information reported:
“Littler’s web site states that’s one among its specialties, and a handbook from the agency obtained by E&E Information lays out a number of methods for preventing unionization efforts. ‘Our deep expertise in representing administration serves as a powerful counterpoint to the world’s strongest labor organizations,’ its web site states. ‘We information firms in growing and initiating methods that lawfully keep away from unions or successfully reply to unconventional company campaigns.’”
On Might 27, greater than half of Audubon’s non-management staffers voted through a card-check course of in help of a union. In mid-June, union organizers delivered a petition to Audubon headquarters in Washington with greater than 10,000 signatures from individuals supporting the employees’ proper to unionize. It was signed by present and former workers, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), fellow birdwatchers, and members of the general public. Additionally they held a rally exterior the headquarters to handle ongoing points at Audubon and argue for the union.
Organizers say the brand new interim CEO Elizabeth Grey has refused to voluntarily acknowledge the union. In late Might, Grey mentioned in a assertion:
“Audubon publicly commits to remaining impartial all through the organizing and voting course of. We won’t marketing campaign towards the union in any manner and are keen to work with union organizers to carry an election as quickly as potential.”
Up subsequent: An NLRB election
Yesterday, Audubon issued a assertion saying it “urged the Communication Staff of America (CWA) to submit a petition by mid-July for a union election administered by the Nationwide Labor Relations Board (NLRB).”
Grey mentioned within the assertion: “Audubon made clear on Might 14th that it eagerly helps a good, open, democratic election course of administered by the NLRB that can permit all union-eligible workers to anonymously make this selection for themselves. We urge the union organizers to submit the petition to NLRB and begin the election course of as quickly as potential at once.
“Each one that has a stake ought to have a vote.
“The NLRB conducts roughly 1200 union elections a yr—it’s the gold commonplace for union elections and we have now dedicated to honoring the outcomes of a good election held by the NLRB.”
It’s price noting that different environmental nonprofits haven’t required an NLRB election to acknowledge a union.
At this time, Audubon for All introduced it has filed for simply such an election. “Dr. Grey mentioned that Audubon was keen to work with the union to carry an election as quickly as potential however has rebuffed our requests,” mentioned Shyamlee Patel, a finance affiliate at Audubon. “Delaying an election and slowing down our organizing course of won’t maintain us from successful a union. Refusing an expedited election solely serves to perpetuate Audubon’s poisonous tradition the place higher administration ignores staff’ voices. It’s the precise purpose we’re organizing.”
A spokesperson gave this additional rationalization of the transfer to BirdWatching:
“The Audubon for All union was outraged to study late final evening that Interim CEO Dr. Elizabeth Grey, Board Chair Maggie Walker, the Nationwide Board of Administrators, and government management of the Nationwide Audubon Society are refusing to conform to an expedited election. We proposed to carry a quick election course of with a trusted third social gathering, the American Affiliation of Arbitration, through an internet platform to make sure each employee had protected, easy accessibility to forged their vote—particularly essential for our distributed employees community throughout a worldwide pandemic.
“Audubon administration has frequently delayed this course of by first refusing to voluntarily acknowledge our union, which has the help of the vast majority of eligible Audubon staff. They proceed to refuse to signal a legally binding neutrality settlement.
“Now, Audubon administration is transferring the goalposts by refusing our proposal to carry an expedited election by means of a longtime, revered third social gathering, claiming that they particularly requested an Nationwide Labor Relations Board election—which they didn’t. They merely wish to delay. We count on they may elevate objections on the NLRB and stall the election there as properly. However we’ll prevail. We’ll proceed to work as a union to construct an Audubon for All.”
Why ought to birders, whether or not they’re members of Audubon or not, care about administration/worker relations on the largest nonprofit within the U.S. devoted to hen conservation? I feel the reply is pretty apparent, however right here’s how three present workers reply:
“I’ve seen a number of of my coworkers let go together with zero warning and watched my well being premiums go up — all throughout a pandemic,” mentioned Safiya Cathey, a supervisor in Audubon’s Grant Accounting division. “I wish to be centered on combating local weather change and saving birds’ habitats, not whether or not I’ll have the ability to afford a physician’s go to. With the intention to struggle for the birds, we have to struggle for ourselves, which is why this union is so essential.”
“Audubon’s mission is to help birds and their ecosystems, however the group appears to not acknowledge that its workers are on the entrance of that struggle,” mentioned Alisa Opar, a options editor at Audubon Journal. “We work at Audubon not solely as a result of we’re obsessed with conservation and devoted to placing our experience to work for the birds. We are able to’t try this to the very best of our means when our determination to unionize shouldn’t be being revered and we aren’t given a voice on the job. It’s time administration realizes that.”
“Audubon wants to take a look at these different environmental teams organizing and ask why we aren’t standing beside them on this struggle. Why is administration letting us fall behind?” mentioned Tykee James, Audubon’s Authorities Affairs Coordinator, who can be co-founder of #BlackBirdersWeek on Twitter and host of the On Phrase for Wildlife podcast. “If administration actually needs to usher in a brand new period of change, they should help their staff and guarantee a good election course of.”